Samsung Galaxy Nexus Android phone (preview)

Samsung Galaxy Nexus preview: Google gives the world the best Ice Cream Sandwich yet

After months of rumours and a delayed launch out of respect for Steve Jobs, Google and Samsung have jointly unveiled the Samsung Galaxy Nexus Android phone. It's the first smartphone to run the latest 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich" version of Google's Android operating system, and has a strikingly large 4.65in screen.

• Read our guide to the best upcoming smartphones in 2011

Typically, Google partners with a handset manufacturer to launch a new version of Android. HTC's Nexus One launched Android 2.1 "Eclair", while Google chose Samsung's Nexus S to debut Android 2.3 "Gingerbread". The Samsung Galaxy Nexus is the smartphone of choice to debut Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich". It's also the first time a Google phone has been marketed with the manufacturer's name, rather than Google.

Samsung Galaxy Nexus: Ice Cream Sandwich

Ice Cream Sandwich is the star of the Galaxy Nexus show and the changes are both exhausting and pretty impressive. The entire user interface has been refreshed — it combines some features from Google's Honeycomb platform for tablets and adds a number of new elements like a standard typeface called "Roboto" in a bid to create a more uniform look and feel.

Ice Cream Sandwich no longer requires hardware buttons, so back home and recent app buttons are soft keys that are built into the UI. There's also a recent apps menu that will bring up a scrolling list of open apps, the ability to unlock the phone through face recognition, the synchronisation of bookmarks with the Google Chrome browser, a built-in "Android Beam" app that allows you to share content with other Ice Cream Sandwich phones by bumping the devices together, and a people app that embeds social networking account details, photos and status updates of individual contacts.

Ice Cream Sandwich also includes a Movie Studio app that will edit videos captured on the Galaxy Nexus' camera, live effects for the camera, the ability to swipe up on an incoming phone call to send a pre-defined text message, a data usage application, the ability to create folders by dragging an app onto another, and a new keyboard with improved error correction.

Samsung Galaxy Nexus: Hardware

The main story of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus obviously centres on the Ice Cream Sandwich software, but the phone is packing some serious hardware, too. Heading the list is a strikingly large 4.65in Super AMOLED HD display — the HD denotes a high definition resolution of 1280x720, so we expect the Galaxy Nexus to display an ultra sharp and crisp image. The Galaxy Nexus' screen is slightly-curved and its body is in the form of a teardrop profile — this means it's thicker at the top and slightly wider towards the bottom. It's 8.94mm thick at its widest point.

The Samsung Galaxy Nexus' 4.65in screen is larger than both the Samsung Galaxy S II and the HTC Sensation (both 4.3in). For some, this will blur the line between a large smartphone and a small tablet. However, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus has on-screen controls rather than capacitive keys that were previously standard on Android phones, so the phone itself is likely to be a little more compact than expected. Aside from power and volume buttons, the Galaxy Nexus has no other physical buttons.

Disappointingly, the Galaxy Nexus is constructed largely from plastic which makes it less appealing than alternatives like the Kevlar fiber-equipped Motorola RAZR and the aluminium and glass Apple iPhone 4S. However, we'll have to wait to get our hands-on the Galaxy Nexus to fully judge its plastic build.

The Samsung Galaxy Nexus is powered by a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, has 1GB of RAM and either 16GB or 32GB of internal memory. There is no microSD card slot for extra storage, so you'll have to make the most of the on-board memory. A 1750mAh battery powers the device.

The Samsung Galaxy Nexus has a 5-megapixel camera with single-LED flash on the rear that doubles as a full HD 1080p video recorder. Samsung says the camera will take photos with "zero" shutter lag. A 1.3-megapixel front facing camera will handle video calls.

Other features of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus include Bluetooth 3.0, USB 2.0 via a regular micro-USB port, Wi-Fi and a Near Field Communications (NFC) chip, while the phone also has a built-in barometer. The Galaxy Nexus supports pentaband HSDPA+ (which means it covers Telstra's 850MHz Next G networks along with Optus and Vodafone's 900MHz and 2100MHz networks. Samsung says an LTE version will be available "depending on the region" but has not clarified whether Australia will be part of that. Telstra's new 4G network operates on the LTE 1800MHz spectrum band.

Samsung has not announced Australian availability or pricing for the Galaxy Nexus.

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Tags smartphonesmobile phonessamsungIce Cream SandwichSamsung Galaxy NexusAndroid 4.0

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Ross Catanzariti

Ross Catanzariti

PC World
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